An Interview with Alberta Rockson – Interburns

Q. When and how did you become involved with Interburns?

I have been involved been with humanitarian works through clinical works and trainings since 2010 when a Charity from United Kingdom Resurge Africa introduced me to ten days outreach program which was designed to be a yearly program which had started about 2009. This was a call for reconstructive surgeons, nurses and rehabilitation specialists needs for the people of Sierra Leone in one of their districts called Make.

Just before this time I had training in burns rehabilitation in Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Scotland. This training was identified as a need for Ghana after a period of time where the visiting surgeons always had to come along with their hand and burn therapist since my country didn’t have any. The outreach program gave me the opportunity to visit Sierra Leone about 4 times and this increase my appetite for advocacy and share my knowledge with others in Africa and beyond.

I was selected to represent Ghana for the first ever Advance Burn Care (ABC) Rehabilitation which took place in Bangladesh in 2015. There I was selected to be a trainer of trainees and that also helped in my zeal to give rehabilitation services to different groups of people using different platforms. The training was by another Charity in United Kingdom Interburns who are into training, education and research in burns to support LMICs. We have had trainings in Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania and online trainings for different international bodies and agencies.

Q. Where have you been spending your time recently?

Recently in November 2021 I went to Sierra Leone following the mass Gas Tanker explosion which killed hundreds and injuring over 300 people.  I was there for two weeks but had previous engagements with the local rehabilitation team to plan and execute enrolment of emergency acute rehabilitation care.

Q. Can you tell us what the project objectives were?

The objectives of the trip were to give the best rehabilitation and meet the needs of the injured patients.
To introduce the role of rehabilitation in the multidisciplinary burn care team.
To teach the local therapist of the approaches in managing Acute burn patients including those in the ICU.
To robe in the students who were the available workforce with close supervision.

Q. What did you find challenging?

The first challenge was seeking for the approval to enable rehabilitation specialist to be sent on the grounds as soon as possible.
The limited number of physiotherapists in the country and their distribution.
Lack of specialised burns therapist in the country.
Reliable and dedicated system with personnel or staff.
Engaging and using level 300 students who were not prepared for mass casualty management both theoretically and practically.

Q. What were the biggest highlights?

The coordination within few days to get the Physiotherapists to be a part of the initial response team was a good attempt.

The willingness of the students to be taught and practice in an area which was new to them in their program and the support with logistics such as internet facility by the Kings Partnership Sierra Leone helped a great deal with the success of the rehabilitation.

The support by an individual company to help in the Mass Casualty went a long way to assist in the acute, medium and long-term management of the patients.

Q. What plans do you have for the future?

To instil advocacy and teamwork in both the local physiotherapists and the students so as to prepare them for any future disaster management. 

To have close feedback with local team to ensure the patients are getting the best of rehabilitation care.

To review the patients for their medium to long term plans by liaising with the local therapists and any other therapist on the grounds.

There are two physical visits to be made before the year ends to ensure the medium to long term management is achieved.